“Take a cold lump of clay and breathe life into it! That’s Stop Motion. It’s like playing God, there’s nothing else like it!”
You remember Rudolf and the Abominable Snowman, Hermey the Elf, and The Winter Warlock? I do! As a kid these Christmas classics used to really puzzle me. I remember wondering, is this a cartoon or is it real? I knew it wasn’t live action, but these characters looked nothing like any cartoon I’d ever seen. They looked like real toys that had come to life and this both thrilled me and, admittedly, disturbed me.
What kind of voodoo magic is this?
I find stop motion an odd creep magic even as an adult. Without seeing the invisible hands of the animators the effect is as enchanting as it is ghostly. And this odd creepy magic is likely what inspired artists like Tim Burton to create The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s this odd creepy magic that is the essence of stop motion, the oldest form of animation, that awakens a deeply primitive allure of the forbidden arts!
In college I produced a stop motion animation short as my thesis project. When I proposed it to my professors the idea was immediately denied. It was far too ambitious, they told me and explained that I had no clue how difficult and time-consuming the stop motion animation process was. So, that weekend I built some puppets and finished the first and second stop motion animated scenes ever produced at Watkins Film School.
I graduated that year and my stop motion short film, What’s Under the Bed, won five of the seven award categories at the Watkins Film Screenings.
For me stop motion is a flashback to days playing with action figures in the sandbox. It has a naturally hand-made quality with its imperfections and delicate details like visible fingerprints, the overwhelming levels of detail in every frame, all together with a little odd creepy magic. There’s nothing else quite like it.